My article this month is a spin-off of Pastor Brian’s message a few weeks ago, Every Follower is a Fisher. I spent several years of my ministry in a certain persuasion that basically believed that almost all disciple making was the responsibility of the ministry, a select few. Matthew 28:19 clearly tells us “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” If this commission of our Lord is to be carried out, the principle of evangelistic multiplication commended by Paul will have to become a reality in the church today. In 2 Timothy 2:2, Paul encourages Timothy to teach the things that he had learned to others, that they in turn could teach others as well. To effectively entrust the gospel to the faithful of this generation, we must act upon the reformation message that all believers are called to minister. Ephesians 4:11-12 tells us “and he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of the ministry.”
It is hard to talk about discipleship without mentioning Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a young German Lutheran Pastor who joined the underground church in Germany convinced that it was his duty as a Christian to work for Hitler’s defeat. He was martyred at 39 years of age, but has left an impact on many believers through his writings on discipleship. Bonhoeffer wrote, “When Christ calls a man, be bids him come and die.” It cost him his life. He continues, “When we are called to follow Christ, we are summoned to an exclusive attachment to his person. The grace of his call bursts all the bonds of legalism. It is a gracious call, a gracious commandment. It transcends the difference between the law and the gospel. Christ calls, the disciple follows. That is grace and commandment in one.” Psalm 119:45 says, “And I shall walk in a wide place, for I have sought your precepts.”
Bonhoeffer continues, “Christianity without the living Christ is inevitably Christianity without discipleship, and Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ. When Christ beckons to us to follow him, He waits for a response from us to obey.” Unlike Uncle Sam, especially during the days of the draft, when he called, people went. Christ stands with open arms and beckons us to, “Come, follow me.”
If we can break down the traditional walls that only certain individuals can effectively impart the gospel to unbelievers, then we can reach our world. Sometimes people have different ideas about who can minister to them. When Christ calls us to discipleship, he asks us to deny ourselves and take up our cross daily and follow him. Jesus sums up successful discipleship as dying to live, losing to find and humbling ourselves to be uplifted.
One of the greatest needs in the church today is the personal follow-up of new believers. They need not only immediate spiritual assistance, but also long-term growth into Christian discipleship. After reading several men’s writings, I realized they have a similar agreement that there is a need for developing new believers through a one-on-one relationship so that they, in turn, can teach others about Christ.
I remember attending a conference several years ago, and the speaker said “do whatever you can to get them out to church and we will do the rest.” That’s not biblical whatsoever. Billie Hanks Jr., editor of the book entitled Discipleship said “the responsibility of walking with Jesus Christ in submission and commitment to Him and to His word and the training of new Christians in the climate of love and apprenticeship are tasks for all of us to learn together and then do by the grace of God.”
Having spent a good part of my Christian walk not understanding we are saved by the grace of God, I believed we had to do things to be saved. Thank God he opened my eyes to what the Bible really says. I think of the song we used to sing, “Lord lay some soul upon my heart, and love that soul through me. And may I ever do my part to win that soul for thee.” Amen.
Pastor Jake StirnemannOctober 1, 2019